This month we are pleased to feature PhD Research Candidate Jao Carminati. Jao is exploring the lived experience of cyberscam survivors with acquired brain injury (ABI) and their close others. Jao was also a winner of the Emerging Digital Health Researchers Award at Digital Health Week 2021.
Please tell us a little about yourself. My name’s Jao Carminati – I am currently a first year Clinical Neuropsychology PhD student at Monash University. I’ve always loved every aspect of psychology, but during my honours year in 2020 I found my passion for neuropsychology, with a particular interest in pursuing a career in brain injury rehabilitation, both as a practicing Neuropsychologist and a researcher. I am also currently working as a research assistant and have recently begun dipping my toes into teaching, taking a first year Introduction to Psychology unit – which I am loving so far!
What is your research on? My PhD project builds on my honours research, in which I explored the lived experience of cyberscam survivors with acquired brain injury (ABI) and their close others (family members and friends). Cyberscams encompass a wide range of scams that occur via technology – such as romance scams, service-provider scams, phishing and many more. Cyberscams cost Australians hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and in the general population have been shown to lead to negative psychosocial impacts. Through interviews, we better understood some factors which may increase the vulnerability of people with ABI to being scammed online, the detrimental financial losses, shame and distress associated with being scammed, and the challenges close others face in supporting their loved one with ABI in recovering from the scam experience. We found that although this was a common issue, there were little resources available to support people with ABI or their support systems.
Across the next few years of my PhD, I aim to develop a measure of how susceptible someone with ABI is to cyberscams. This scale will consist of self-rated items and a practical scam identification task, to gauge an individual’s level of scam protection, scam risk, and accuracy and confidence in identify scams. Once this is developed, I aim to use this measure to collect frequency data regarding how common scams may be in the ABI population, and further understand quantitively which factors may increase one’s vulnerability to scams.
Another aspect of our project is currently underway, in which we are developing a cyber safety web resource targeted towards those with ABI. This is a co-designed project funded by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), with our wonderful CyberAbility team consisting of researchers from Monash University, partnering with the community sector with the help of Li-Ve Tasmania, and ABI consumer advocates with lived experience of cyberscams. This resource will consist of cyber safety training modules and workbook exercises to provide accessible, targeted cyber safety awareness and education to people with ABI. This website will be launched later this year – Cyberability.org.au
What are the real world consequences of your research? Especially in an era where the role of technology is only increasing and advancing (especially during COVID-19 where many of our interactions rely on technology), cyberscams are a growing issue which need to be addressed. For people with ABI, cognitive and psychosocial impairments may increase their vulnerability. Yet, a lack of understanding of the prevalence of scams in the ABI sector makes it difficult to plan services and support. Without an appropriate measure of scam experiences, we are not able to quantitively measure one’s risk to cyberscams, identify which vulnerability factors need addressing, or evaluate how effective intervention is.
The development and validation of a CyberAbility scale means we will be able to collect crucial information. Firstly, frequency data is needed to help us understand the scale of this issue. Secondly, comparisons between those with ABI who have and haven’t been scammed, as well as other potentially high-risk groups, will help us understand factors which may lead to increased scam vulnerability. Lastly, this measure will allow evidence-driven evaluation of cyber safety interventions.
What does digital health mean to you? To me, digital health is an opportunity to advance the effectiveness and accessibility of healthcare and quality of living, through the use of advancing technology. Technology can be a wonderful tool when used appropriately, and will no doubt play a fundamental role in personalising how healthcare, social participation and support is delivered. However, as with anything, there are risks involved – particularly as digital health is a new and rapidly growing sector which requires much more human understanding. Unfortunately, technology is not equally accessible to everyone, and many vulnerable populations are challenged with barriers to equitable access and support online. Therefore, digital health also means exploring how to challenge these barriers, and improve accessibility for those at risk. Specific to my field of interest, digital health means enabling individuals with disability to independently and safely utilise the many tools technology has to offer by addressing and targeting the myriad of unfortunately common risks. When used safely, technology can be a wonderful tool in fostering social relationships and participation.
Do you have any resources or links you would like to share?
Links to connect with me and stay up to date with my research:
The CyberAbility website – stay up to date with our project progress by subscribing to our newsletter.
A huge thank you to Jao for taking the time to be our March Research Student feature!